Monday, April 8, 2013

Gravel Still Sucks - Friends Still Awesome

You'd think my memory would serve me better.  You'd think I'd remember that Team Virtus often makes things that suck seem fun.  You'd think I'd remember how freaking hard it is to ride my heavy ass mountain bike on gravel roads.  You'd think I'd remember how it sucks to be dropped off the back time and time again when I have to hike-a-bike hills or just because I'm slow as shit.  Well, you'd be wrong.  But my memory has now been refreshed.  Because, just like I noted last year after I rode 34 miles with some of the coolest folks on Team Virtus, GRAVEL SUCKS!  But friends that are patient with your piss poor riding on a beautiful day are absolutely tough to beat.

After a full day of racing the CAC2, I was hoping that Team Virtus would be too tired.  Kate even texted me that she was suffering from some chafing and might not be up for riding the infamous "Cock Gobbler" on Sunday.  So when I got up Sunday morning, I decided if she bailed that I might bail too.  But no, she put on her big girl panties (and plenty of chamois butter) and said it was a "go".  That they were meeting at Mokane, MO at 9-ish (ie. Team Virtus time).  I assumed that 9-ish was give or take 10 min.  But I got to the parking lot at the trailhead at 8:50 and called her to make sure I was in the right spot and they hadn't left Holts Summit which was a solid 25-30 min away.  Hmm...things to remember for future reference.

But some of their other Facebook friends were there and we started introducing ourselves and getting ready.  I didn't have a lot to do, but I did spray on some sunscreen (foreshadowing) and got my bike off my rack and put my bottle in it, etc.  When Luke, Adam and Kate finally rolled in (I just tease - it was a gorgeous morning and really no biggie) - Luke didn't even have his saddle bolted to his bike from some previous day's lending at the non-race.  So he did his mechanical duty while we finished getting ready.  I got to give Kate her birthday gift which she was thrilled with (score - a book about riding the Great Divide race).  And finally, closing in on 10 AM, we rolled out.

Sure enough, I was dropped as soon as we hit the gravel.  I cranked along and tried not to be annoyed at how slow I am.  They waited at the tops of hills and major turns.  The front of the group ended up dropping Adam, Luke and Kate as they waited for me about 6.5 miles in.  They decided to help me get through the ride - God bless them.  And we continued to crank away.  We stopped at the top of one hill for a spot of shade and to snap a couple quick pics.

Team Virtus with "Invisi-Bob" Jenkins (Luke, Adam and Kate)

Luke said he wanted to show the pretty scenery.  Slowly greening up around here,
and this pic doesn't do the scenery justice.
Pretty soon, we hit Fulton and I asked to swing about a half a block out of the way to a Casey's to get more fluids.  My one bottle rack on the mountain bike doesn't really work for these rides!  I also got a slice of pizza as it was lunch time and I wasn't sure when or what I would get to eat otherwise.  My stinger waffle and shot blocks weren't probably going to be enough for the whole distance.  It was blissful being on the pavement in town after the beating my body was taking on the gravel.  But soon enough we were back on gravel.

I continued along and occassionally one of them would ride slow enough to chat.  Kate asked about my duathlon and there wasn't much to tell other that commisserating about the wind from Saturday (that was thankfully not nearly as present on Sunday).  I told Kate that I get frustrated that I might always be this sucktastic.  I'm not 100% sure what I need to do (or if I have the will to do what it takes) to get significantly better.   But I still ended up watching the three of them riding together a fair ways in front of me a lot of the time.  Luke was always good about checking that I was ok and getting enough to drink in the heat every time we stopped for a minute.  I just tried to smile and pretend like this was a good time.  It actually was ok because I was with them, but there was a lot of less fun moments (including some hill hiking and way too many dogs chasing us to count).

Before we knew it, we arrived at Hamm's Prairie gas station.  This is a wide spot on a country road that apparently has the best hard salami sandwiches.  It was about 25 miles in and Luke was jonesing for a sammy.  Supposedly, the other bike group was almost an hour ahead of us at this point.  Ugh - so sorry guys for being your boat anchor!  And sorry that they were out of salami!  There were rampant jokes being texted back and forth about the other group chucking it into the trash after using the salami for chamois cream or eating it all.  I had a little slim jim and more gatorade.  I was smarter this time and filled up the empty gatorade bottle with water and stuck it in my back jersey pocket.

Team Virtus at Hamm's Prairie: Kate with her pulled pork sandwich, Adam in a turkey sandwich coma and
Luke sad that he was eating candy instead of hard salami. 

And after a blissful mile or two on pavement, there was more gravel.  And then we went by the nuke plant which makes for another round of photos.
Kate and I by Callaway Nuclear Plant
Thought I needed to be further away to get it all in, but now realizing I didn't. 
This is the group waiting for me - a common site on any ride I do with them.

Just a little self portait down the road.

It is almost all downhill from here - though still a lot more gravel.  Then we hit a handful of miles on the Katy Trail with some more fun pictures.  We also picked up Jim who was adding some flat Katy miles to the end of the full route he'd already finished with the fast folks.

I thought it was funny that Team Virtus stops to take pics of dead things - this time an armadillo.

"Hey Bob, that grassy spot up there would be an awesome checkpoint for Cedar Cross"

Kate is so talented she can take pics while riding her bike! (Stolen from Superkate)
Big ass rock on Katy Trail
Just before we were back to the trailhead, there was a turn in the route that added mileage.  Neither Adam nor I were up for it after the 40-ish we'd just finished, so we headed to my car after saying goodbye to Luke and Kate.  Jim continued on down the Katy so he could his last few miles knocked out.  Adam had ridden with Luke, but I offered him a ride back home to save his girlfriend from having to come get him. 

At the end of the day, it was a tough ride.  I was feeling it everywhere.  I got home, showered quickly and headed back out for my nephew's birthday party.  Found one little spot on my arm where I had missed spraying sunscreen (oops).  I ate pizza at the party like there was no tomorrow.  Bad idea as between the stomach ache and the rest of me aching, it was a rough night of sleep (and lack thereof) followed by a super busy day of work. 
Kids and their cousins at the park for youngest's 8th birthday
(my daughter is in orange tank and son has arms folded in defiance to having pic taken)

What kids do when told they can do a silly pose if they'll just stand still for a "nice" pic.
So I doubt I'll hit up many more gravel rides anytime soon.  But at some point I'm sure my memory will fail me again and I just won't be able to pass up a chance to hang with such awesome people and I'll forget for just a moment too long that gravel sucks.
Even if it isn't so bad to look at on a sunny day with your friends in the distance. (Stolen from Superkate)


  1. Riding gravel is definitely tougher than riding pavement, expecially when you're not riding the optimal bike for it. After riding my mountain bike (or my borrowed Monster mountain bike) on all of my gravel rides last year, I could really tell yesterday what a difference a cross bike makes. Of course, if gravel isn't something you're going to ride much, it makes a lot more sense just to ride what you have an make do.

    Riding with stronger/faster riders makes you stronger and faster. Everyone I ride with on a regular basis is stronger than I am, so I know how it can be frustrating to struggle and see other people make it look easier. But like you said, we had a beautiful day and good company (and now you know about the whole bottle in the jersey pocket thing, which will come in handy on other hot rides).

    Thanks again for the book! You really did pick a perfect gift! Seriously thoughtful and sweet.

    1. Cross bikes are definitely better for riding gravel, but if a new bike isn't in the cards you may just consider swapping out your tires. Replacing the knobby tires with a semi-slick tire, one that has a smooth center tread and smaller knobs on the sides for cornering, should make the ride smoother and faster.

  2. I would love to ride on something other than asphalt. I have a mountain bike, but I have never gone "mountain biking". There is an off-road in July that I kinda wanna do, but I have no mountain bike skills.

    Your kids are cute!

  3. It's tough to train with others who are stronger, but as Kate points out, that's how we get better.

  4. How fun was that ride!!! I love off road biking, you see so much interesting things that the road doesnt bring.

    Cycling with stronger cyclist will make you a beast on the bike, that is how I became decent on the bike

  5. Looks like you had a great time....I hate gravel for running and riding. Not fun at all!

  6. that is the only kind of mtn biking I would do. If I get on trails, it usually ends in me crashing hard! that looked like a fun day!

  7. Looks like a great day! You were smiling in all the pics at least :-).

    Keep riding a lot and riding with that group and some day you will return the favor.